Protecting Animal Welfare

March 1, 2013

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Last year, I asked MP Yeo Guat Kwang to chair an Animal Welfare Legislation Review Committee.  Like me, he felt that we should do more to protect the welfare of animals.  More Singaporeans are having animals as pets which give them plenty of joy and companionship.  Unfortunately, there are still the occasional incidents of animal abuse, neglect and sheer irresponsibility.

My instinct is that our law may need to be updated   but this is an area which the Government alone cannot deliver a good outcome.  Fortunately, there are many good-hearted people out there with a heavy dose of passion, compassion and expertise, who are most willing to help us move forward on this subject.

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Mr Yeo assembled a great team of animal welfare activists, experts, community leaders, MPs and industry players and quickly went to work, dived into research, talked to people young and old, checked with the industry and carried out dialogues. This is the first time we have had such a multi-stakeholder committee working together on animal welfare legislation and collaboration.

This afternoon, they proudly handed in to MND their Report of recommendations. It is the effort of one whole year of hard work.

I am grateful to Mr Yeo and all his Committee members for their efforts in reviewing a complex and emotive subject such as animal welfare. It must have been a challenge for them trying to achieve consensus.

I look forward to reading their Report.  MND will carefully study the Committee’s recommendations and see how we can collectively raise the bar for animal welfare in Singapore.

On behalf of the animals, I thank them!

 

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Of Trees, Stray Dogs, Wild Boars and Our Babies

June 22, 2012

All these come under the MND portfolio.

We champion all of them and protect them so that all can co-exist in harmony, without fear of attack, persecution or culling.  After all, we are a civilised society; we should learn how to live together.

In the primitive world, the law of the jungle rules.  The ecology of predators and the food chain prevails.  Overpopulation of a particular species is then kept in balance via the harsh reality of survival of the fittest.

Singapore is a modern City in a Garden; an urban city in the tropics.  We hope that all species of animals, birds, insects, trees and flowers can have their place under the sun in their natural habitat and not caged up as if in a giant Zoo.

This is a very stretched target.  We may never achieve it, but it forces us to be creative and to think out of the box to try to see if we can co-exist with as many species of living things as possible without endangering ourselves.  In a limited space of just over 700 sq km, it is a zero-sum game and we need to prioritize.

My priority is towards protecting our babies: that they will be safe and grow up well, happy and be able to fulfil their dreams.

That is why we have to act on stray dogs and wild boars occasionally.  It is to protect our babies.

We will be as humane as we can, but the need to manage their population remains.

Last month, NParks and AVA jointly rounded up a pack of stray dogs at Ang Mo Kio Town Garden West.  For months, we have been receiving complaints from residents there about the dogs barking aggressively, howling late into the night and chasing park users.  An accident was waiting to happen.

We worked closely with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA), Action for Singapore Dogs (ASD) and Save Our Street Dogs (SOSD) and moved in to round up these strays and re-home as many of them as possible.  Our initial attempts were challenging as some residents and animal activists, who felt that the strays should be left alone to run free in the park, tried to frustrate our efforts.  I appreciate their good intentions but we worry more about our children, who are defenceless in such adversity.

Ten stray dogs have since been rounded up.  Some have been rehomed, but the rest are awaiting a good home.  This was only possible with the active support from the animal welfare groups, the Neighbourhood Police Centre and a dog lover who helped to look for adopters and boarding homes for the strays.

The residents are happier now.  Mr Choo, a grassroots leader who lives in the block adjacent to the park, said that the barking has come down greatly.

Meanwhile, the stray dogs in Punggol continue to worry residents and park users there.  This is a larger park and rounding them up is more challenging.

Many Singaporeans are dog lovers.  But feeding strays indiscriminately and hindering efforts to manage the stray population are not the ways to express this compassion.  This is a larger park and rounding them up is more challenging.

Instead, they can come forward to adopt the stray dogs that were rounded up.   Instead of buying a dog from a pet shop, why not adopt these strays to provide a safe, loving home for them?

Meanwhile, we will also have the wild boars to tackle at the Lower Peirce area.  Just this morning, two wild boars wandered off into the Bishan-AMK Park and charged at a CISCO Security Officer and a child.  Luckily, they were not seriously injured.  The wild boar population needs to be managed.  Rehoming them is, unfortunately, not an option.

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Saving Cats

June 3, 2011

I love animals and have pets at home (and to walk the talk, I am a vegetarian).

Last week, one elderly resident came to my MPS crying out for her pet cat which she said AVA had caught and might kill it! I told her AVA came under my Ministry and I would intervene.

The next day, AVA checked and said that her cat was not with AVA. They would look out for it and would return it to her, should it be sent to AVA subsequently.

I weigh in on AVA to seriously consider reviewing its culling programme for cats. Stray cats are a source of complaints in HDB estates but killing them is not the best way to go. The right thing is for cat lovers to own the problem, eliminate the nuisance created by irresponsible behaviour, and sterilise the cats to control their population. Where there are enough cat-lovers out there willing to own this problem, we can avoid culling in those estates.

As MOS Tan Chuan-Jin has an interest in this area, I have asked him to help me lead on this subject, working with AVA, the relevant NGOs and interested residents to forge a compassionate and mature approach to this problem.

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